Harsh Mariwala of Marico is on the hunt for entrepreneurs who have the potential to scale up, and are ready to mingle. Through his Ascent Foundation, Mariwala has created a platform for growth-stage entrepreneurs to meet and share their experiences. Ascent will foot the bill for such meetings and connect the participants to the right sources for guidance and support.
Ascent is a Personal Social Responsibility initiative of Mariwala. “It’s my way of giving back to the society”, Mariwala told FE in an exclusive interaction.
Started two years back, Ascent—short for Accelerating the SCaling up of ENTerprises—has enrolled 280 members in Mumbai and its neighbouring cities. Delhi is Ascent’s next destination, followed by Bengaluru and other big cities. Mariwala is keen to have at least 1,000 members in the network in the next two years, though the goal is to have eventually 10,000-plus members to make a visible impact on India's business landscape.
But getting the right members is not an easy task. To qualify, a shortlisted candidate has to make a presentation to the judging panel about his/her business and its potential, which will be rated through group interactions and peer review. Selected members are then organised into ‘trust-groups’ of 8-12 non-competing entrepreneurs. A group usually has members from diverse industries who are similar in size (revenue) and growth stage.
“There is a lot of buzz and word-of- mouth happening about Ascent. But the biggest challenge is in getting the right quality entrepreneurs. The rest we can manage...A candidate should be willing to spare 9-10 hours a month and wanting to give back to others. That's why 80-90% attendance is mandatory to remain in the group”, says Mariwala.
Each trust-group is initiated for the first four months by an Initiator—a facilitation expert or a trained Ascent facilitator. From each group, two members are identified by the Initiator as potential ‘facilitators’ and trained in the art of facilitation. The group will later be introduced to Enablers—who are usually investors, bankers, service providers, and consultants—to help enterprises scale up.
This way Ascent creates an eco-system where entrepreneurs can learn from each other in a confidential environment and get support from the right Enablers.
“Every entrepreneur has a set of issues to deal with—like finance, growth, people, or talent—and each has a vision. If they can be put together in a group, they can together add value, and benefit from each other in scaling up.”
Mariwala says his company Marico